As environmental concerns become ever more poignant in today’s world, carbon dioxide (CO2) recovery has become a tasty option for industrial gas companies within the food and beverage space.

CO2 recovery methods have never been more significant and a lot more businesses within the industry are starting to put this option firmly on their menus.

One such company, specialised food and beverage equipment manufacturer Pentair, has engrained its position in this growing sector following its acquisition of CO2 recovery and purification technology expert Union Engineering in February.

gasworld spoke exclusively to Ivan Williams, Product Line Director CO2 & Biogas for Pentair’s Sustainable Gas Solutions division, about the company’s CO2 recovery capabilities and what the future holds with Union Engineering on the special’s board.

First course – a natural fit

Through its Haffmans brand which it acquired in 2011, Pentair took its first bite of the CO2 recovery industry during the early 1980s. Haffmans had already cooked up a strong reputation in the brewing laboratory equipment sector with its well-known ‘gehaltemeter,’ a device used to measure the CO2 quantity in beer.

Bert Haffmans, the son of founder Ernst Haffmans, then took this one step further when he realised that the quality of the CO2 being produced was also a critical consideration. “And so began the journey of Haffman’s CO2 recovery,” Williams explained. Holding a history laden with CO2 expertise, Pentair’s move into CO2 recovery methods appeared to be a natural fit. “Today, CO2 is very much seen by all brewers as the ‘fifth ingredient’ after yeast, barley, hops and water,” he added.

Now, with Pentair’s strong corporate vision in terms of environmental and sustainability goals, the company sees another natural fit in the capture and re-use of CO2. This vision was reinforced with Pentair’s acquisition of CO2 recovery technology specialist Union Engineering earlier this year.

Union Engineering also holds a long and strong legacy in the CO2 industry, stretching back almost a century to 1933. In yet another choice added to the a la carte, Union Engineering acquired The Wittemann Company in 2013 which itself began COoperations back in the 19th century. As a result, Pentair has now amassed more than 250 years’ experience in the CO2 industry with true global experience.

Pentair Haffmans interview blackboard

Main course – technologies

Typically, all CO2 that is recovered and re-used is produced at food and beverage grade, but Pentair’s CO2 recovery equipment produces CO2 at extremely high purities of up to 99.998%.

In a typical Pentair CO2 recovery and purification plant, the gas is firstly conditioned to remove free moisture, before being cleaned of water soluble components in a gas washer. Next, the gas is compressed and moved into a refrigeration unit which liquefies the incoming CO2 gas and purges any unwanted non-condensables such as oxygen and nitrogen. It then moves onto a stripping system which provides additional CO2 purification before transferring the liquid CO2 into storage tanks, ready for distribution or onsite consumption.

With this plant design, Pentair says breweries can now recover CO2 from fermentation earlier and still provide food-grade CO2 to meet the demand for beer production, with a surplus of food-grade CO2 that can be used in carbonated beverages. But, due to customer availability of raw materials for processing, the CO2 recovery process may need to be adapted. The Pentair-Union CO2-ScrubTM technology is one such example whereby normal water washing is replaced by CO2 scrubbing – eliminating water usage from the purification process. 

The company’s portfolio includes a variety of products and solutions for producing food-grade CO2 from high (>90% CO2 from ammonia and bioethanol), medium (>40% CO2 from biogas and refinery sources) and low (<20% CO2 from boiler and engine flue gas) purity sources, with this expanded range proving to be vital to help Pentair digest the fluctuating trends in today’s CO2 sector.

Ivan Williams Pentair Haffmans 2017

Source: Pentair Haffmans

Dessert – a broader horizon

Williams outlined some of these current trends, highlighting, “There is a clear correlation between population expansion, increases in carbonated beverages, increases in food processing, and the increase in CO2 demand.”

“Whilst underlying CO2 demand increases year-on-year, the geographic demand varies. Invariably, most demand in the food and beverage industry comes from developing geographies and as such, CO2 demand can be seen to follow global macro-trends.”

“In some markets, traditional sources in large-scale CO2 recovery are in decline,” he continued. “For example, CO2 recovery from centralised ammonia and ethylene oxide production is less common than 20 years ago. This has led to a broadening of the CO2 horizon with respect to raw CO2 sources and, in many cases, a move to smaller and decentralised CO2 recovery.”

Williams explained that these changing dynamics is evidenced in the growing popularity in recovering CO2 from alternative sources, such as biogas and flue gas sources. “In addition to these structural changes,” he continued, “distribution costs are continuing to rise in many markets leading to new concepts for over-the-fence pipeline supply.”

“These concepts reduce the total cost of CO2 and significantly reduce environmental impact. Pentair is responding to these market changes through a continuous and relentless pursuit of new and better purification technologies that allow us to meet the demand to recover CO2 from an ever-broadening range of sources.”

But Williams points out, ‘fads’ aside such as the explosion in the popularity of craft beer brewing, that the challenge lies in not only providing a technical solution but also in providing a solution that fits in terms of total cost ownership (TCO) whilst also allowing for easy expansion in recovery capacity.

“Pentair-Union’s CO2mpactBrew meets this challenge with small-scale recovery for the craft brewer,” he explained. The innovation’s technology is leveraged from Pentair-Union’s large industrial gas market but has been ‘craft scaled’ to suit smaller operations with a low TCO, as its modular and containerised nature allows for easy expansion. This aligns perfectly with the craft brewing sector – one of the fastest-growing sub-sectors in the food and beverage industry.

Strengthened by the Union Engineering acquisition, Williams revealed that efficient CO2 recovery is definitely still ‘on the menu’ in terms of future focus, but that it will be served with a side dish of strong after-market offerings, concentrating on total plant care with emphasis on plant uptime through the use of ‘big-data’ and ‘remote brain’ concepts.

He revealed, “Remote monitoring and operation is already done by Pentair for many years but the ‘cloud’ and connectivity allows the development of advanced diagnostic tools to predict plant performance and proactively trigger action based on deviation.”

Pentair Haffmans biogas CO2 tank

Source: Pentair Haffmans